'One day at a time': 1,000-plus errors in unemployment claims fixed this week

ASSISTANCE: The Guam Department of Labor has set up an unemployment assistance application help desk as seen at the Dededo library on June 15. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

More than 7,500 displaced workers have yet to file an unemployment claim, even as the second batch of payments is being processed.

The first batch of payments, worth $35 million and covering error-free claims filed from May 30 to June 1, went out this week.

"I felt so relieved. The waiting game is over," Loraina Aguon, a 26-year-old employee furloughed on April 1, said.

She filed an unemployment claim on May 30 and by 6:29 p.m. on June 23, she got a notification from her credit union that her unemployment aid payment's in.

Immediately after that, she said she transferred some money to her and her son's savings and paid her bills with DOCOMO, Guam Power Authority, Guam Waterworks Authority, and Guam Solid Waste Authority.

"Be patient and be thankful. We finally have updates," she advised those who are waiting for their unemployment benefits.

But her most important advice, she said, is for people to "save and budget," after what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to people's employment and finances. Aguon said she's patiently waiting to go back to work.

Fraud

The Guam Department of Labor has so far not released any estimates of the number of suspected fraudulent unemployment claims and what, if any, has been done to address those.

The department urges the public to report unemployment fraud to protect local and federal tax dollars by sending an email to pua.fraud@dol.guam.gov, or by calling the Office of the Inspector General hotline, 800-347-3756.

Claimant fraud may include:

• Knowingly submitting false information such as Social Security number and income;

• Collecting benefits when ineligible;

• Certifying for benefits while not being able and available to work; and

• Intentionally collecting full benefits while not reporting wages or income.

As of Wednesday, 1,781 employers reported via hireguam.com that 31,740 of their employees were laid off, furloughed or getting work hour reductions as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on data from Labor's special projects coordinator, Hannah Cho.

To date, there are still about 7,534 of these displaced workers who have not filed an initial unemployment claims, unlike the 24,206 who already did since May 30.

Many of those who already filed claims, however, continue to face challenges in their applications.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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